Rishi Sunak has urged for temporary ceasefires in Gaza to facilitate the delivery of essential aid to those who are lacking food, water, or medication.
While he intentionally refrained from endorsing a complete halt to hostilities, the leader of the United Kingdom acknowledged the necessity for a more secure setting in order for humanitarian organizations to assist the Palestinian people.
During a discussion among MPs about events in the Middle East, a Labour backbencher accused Israel of imposing “collective punishment” on innocent civilians.
On Wednesday, Sunak addressed the Commons and stated that “the top and foremost principle is that Israel is entitled to protect itself according to international law.”
According to him, the government’s goals were for Hamas to free hostages, assist British citizens in leaving Gaza, and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who require it.
During the prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Sunak stated that in order for all of the desired outcomes to occur, a safer environment is necessary. This may require specific pauses, rather than a ceasefire.
He mentioned that the UK had consulted with allies on Tuesday night at the United Nations.
Reuters reported that the United States has been advocating for shorter periods of time between battles, referred to as specific pauses, while Russia has been pushing for a complete halt in fighting at the United Nations.
Sunak stated that Israel had experienced an extremely harsh attack and that Hamas bears responsibility for this ongoing conflict. He further mentioned that the group deliberately positions itself within civilian populations, causing even more harm.
On Wednesday morning, a Royal Air Force flight departed from the United Kingdom to Egypt with 21 tonnes of assistance for Gaza. This included over 75,000 medical kits, solar lights, and water filters, as announced by the prime minister.
He stated that they will make every effort to increase the amount of aid, such as fuel, being sent to Gaza.
Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, did not address the conflict. Instead, during PMQs, he utilized his six questions to criticize Sunak on the one-year mark of his prime minister position and to commend Labour’s victories in the recent byelections.
Starmer suggested that Sunak, the Conservative party’s candidate in Tamworth, should initiate a general election in response to a graphic shared on social media by the candidate which told struggling families to “Fuck off”.
Sunak chose not to criticize the statements made by his party’s candidate in the by-election, and instead emphasized the government’s efforts to assist the most disadvantaged members of society.
Starmer, on the other hand, criticized him for being unaware and self-congratulatory, placing the blame on the Tories for the increase in expenses, mortgage rates, and scarcity of reasonably priced homes.
Other individuals, such as Mhairi Black, the SNP’s deputy leader in Westminster, raised the issue of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Black urged for a cessation of hostilities and cautioned that ignoring the situation could potentially exacerbate tensions in a volatile region.
Labour frontbencher Yasmin Qureshi expressed her belief that the people of Gaza are facing a “massacre” due to being deprived of basic necessities such as shelter, food, and water. She also condemned this as a form of collective punishment for the Palestinian people, who are being held accountable for crimes they did not commit.
Sunak expressed appreciation for the political parties’ agreement on Israel’s right to protect itself. He also shared condolences for the loss of innocent lives, regardless of their beliefs or nationality, and assured efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza as efficiently as possible.
No 10 later refused to be drawn on how long the pauses in fighting should be. Sunak’s spokesperson would only say the government was working towards “a resolution that delivers on the UK’s priorities” at the UN.
The spokesperson for Starmer has not confirmed if they endorse Qureshi’s plea for a complete halt to hostilities. They stated that Labour is aligned with the US’s stance of advocating for “humanitarian pauses”. Additionally, they expressed a desire for increased aid delivery and the safe release of hostages. Their ultimate goal is to establish a consistent and secure process for aid to enter Gaza.